Star Trek, Workers’ Comp, Technology Adoption, AI, and the Inertial Damper System
Far be it for me to offer two blog posts in a row that reference the entertainment franchise, Star Trek. I am not a “Trekkie nerd” by any stretch of the imagination, although I do enjoy many of the 973 or so series the concept has spawned. Through many episodes there are numerous references and suggestions of the various technologies that make warp travel possible in the 22nd century and beyond. One of those technologies is the “inertial damper” or “inertial dampening” system. That would be the system that counters severe movement in the form of acceleration, sharp turns, and deceleration. It’s what allows Captains Archer, Pike, Kirk, Picard, Janeway, and their respective crews to go from 0 to 145 billion miles per hour in under 1.8 seconds without being turned into pink quivering gobs of gelatinous goo plastered across the back wall of their vessels.
Assuming, of course, the vessel itself is not crushed like an aluminum can or bursts into a fireball from the sheer force of acceleration.
The inertial damper is also the reason they don’t have any seatbelts in the future, a fact I find somewhat annoying. Seatbelts would seem an advisable safety feature when you’re screaming across the cosmos at 300 times the speed of light, or as in the series Star Trek Enterprise, when you are crashing a shuttle pod on some distant planet every two episodes. But sure, an entire ship of 1,000 people can blast out to the Ocampa system in the Delta Quadrant while casually standing around sipping Mai Tai’s in 10 Forward, while I have to strap myself down for a 5-minute drive to my local Publix Supermarket. Seems perfectly reasonable.
But as is so often the case, I digress…
When it comes to workers’ compensation, and specifically the adoption of new processes and technologies in workers’ compensation, the industry doesn’t really have an inertial dampening system. To date it really hasn’t needed one. That is because, in order to need an inertial dampening system, you would first need some inertia.
Although, I suspect if we had both inertia and an inertial dampening system, it would look less like Star Trek, and a tad more like Spaceballs.
The point is this missive is an advisory tale for the workers’ comp industry. Historically we have been glacially slow at embracing new technologies, but that is changing. First, the COVID pandemic did much to break the shackles of resistance regarding new technologies. In a matter of mere months, people learned how to operate their webcams and competently log into a Zoom call. We learned how to spell “telehealth,” and that the world could operate without wet signatures. A few of us even learned that the internet is on the computer now.
I jest, of course. I have publicly stated that the pandemic was actually one of workers’ comp’s finest hours, where a technologically hesitant industry turned on a dime and learned how to do things differently literally overnight, all the while absorbing and managing the COVID challenges of all the industries we serve. It was, for us, a technology and process revolution.
But that was just the beginning. The advent of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will be the second technology revolution that will be completely unavoidable for our industry. AI is here, and its impact is growing every day. In my own company we have been using AI for content analysis and have seen its ability grow by leaps and bounds in just the last year. AI will not destroy jobs specifically, but it will require different approaches and methods to maintain certain positions. And as with any technology shift, new skillsets will be needed, and some positions will be at peril.
Things are starting to move fast, and the twists and turns may feel a bit severe. Every person in our industry should start to educate themselves to both the potential benefits and possible disruptions this technology presents. Establish your own “inertial dampening” system to prepare for the sudden movement both in the industry and your specific job category. History on this will be kind to the prepared, and education and preparation will be the damper you need.
Or, at the very least, buckle up. We don’t yet know how fast this thing will go.